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Physically Challenged People Criticize Fruitless Human Rights Rhetoric

‘’Today (the 21st of October) marks exactly six months Minister in the Presidency for Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane us  that government has found realistic systems of ensuring that the rights of people living with disabilities human rights will always be upheld through this Covid 19 but we are still waiting to see those systems.’’’

Those are the words of the disgruntled Alexandra citizen, Nomathemba Sithole as she was lamenting the government’s failure to ensure people who are living with disabilities rights are upheld throughout this Covid 19 period.

The 65-year-old was referring to public feedback on the White Paper on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities which was led by both Minister Nkoana-Mashabane and her Deputy, Professor Hlengiwe Mkhize via a zoom webinar.

According to Minister Nkoana-Mashabane, the White Paper on the Rights of Persons provides clear policy directives and implementation methods and guidelines and the webinar,  themed: ‘Persons with Disabilities and COVID-19 South Africa’ was meant to conduct an interface dialogue as a direct result of the disability-specific interventions undertaken by the government across services and infrastructure within the COVID-19 government and civil society responses.

”The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996, states that ‘Everyone is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection and benefit of the law’.

It thus guarantees the right of persons with disabilities to equality, non-discrimination and human dignity.

Small Business Development Deputy Minister Rosemary Capa will unpack economic interventions for persons with disabilities during the lockdown period and beyond.” said Minister Nkoana-Mashabane during the ‘Persons with Disabilities and COVID-19 South Africa’ webinar 

The webinar was attended by governments officials, civil society organisations, academic institutions, private sector organizations and youth-led organisations.

In an exclusive interview with JHR, Sithole said the persons with disabilities are extremely disappointed to find out that none of the promises that were made during the webinar has materialised.

“As one of the people with disabilities, I fully depend on government support to survive even more now during all different lockdown levels.

Unfortunately, at this point, I feel like the minister and her deputy deliberate lied to us because I still continue to face discrimination and other barriers in accessing livelihood and income support, participating in online forms of education, and seeking protection from violence,” the department said Sithole

Mapaseka Tsotesi (35) from Alexandra shared the same sentiments with Sithole.

Tsotesi who is blind said she doesn’t understand why would minister decide to publically discuss challenges that exist, interventions being put in place to address these challenges and after that not honour her promises.

”To be honest with you, we (people who are living with disabilities) would have preferred if Minister Nkoana-Mashabane and her Deputy, Professor Hlengiwe Mkhize would have kept quiet, instead of making promises that have turned out to be sources of pain and trauma for some of us.” said Tsotetsi

Human rights experts Phutuma Mfuyo told JHR that if indeed Minister Nkoana-Mashabane and her Deputy, Professor Hlengiwe Mkhize promised better service delivery for people who are living with disabilities and didn’t fulfil those promises, then powers that be should reprimand them.

According to Mfuya, the South African bill of rights clearly says that ‘everyone’s human dignity cannot be fully respected or valued unless the individual is permitted to develop his or her talents optimally.

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